Above: Anthea Patrick, Rob Pensalfini, Johancee Theron and Linda Taimre.
Right: Rebeca Murphy and Chris Vaag
Benjamin Prindable photo
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Zoë Tuffin
Presented by the Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble
Roma Street Parklands Amphitheatre
Season: August 19 to September 6. Tickets can be purchased at www.queenslandshakespeare.org
Titus is a story of revenge. It is an exploration of the raw, primal instinct for revenge. And what sweet, sweet revenge it turned out to be.
Titus Andronicus, as performed by the Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble is one of the most engaging pieces of theatre, let alone Shakespeare I have seen for quite some time. Its pace was fast, energy good and the text was interpreted in such a way as to bring new life to words written all those centuries ago that made them seem fresh and newly written.
The general plot of the piece follows Titus Andronicus, his son Lucius, Saturninus, Tamora and her two sons Chiron and Demetrius and Lavinia, daughter of old Andronicus. The plot becomes rather embroiled and twisted in the theme of revenge and thus becomes rather complicated. However, it generally is about Saturninus, leader of the Romans taking Tamora, Queen of Goths to be his bride. Tamora’s sons lust after the sweet Lavinia and go to rather extreme lengths to have her. What follows is a veritable tennis match of backstabbing and treachery.
As the audience filed into the Roma Street Parklands Amphitheatre, they were treated to the sounds of some of the actors performing in band called, appropriately, Gloves of Blood. I particularly enjoyed the performance of the cellist (who I believe is Emily-Rose Karlin) as her mournful tone whispered a sadness and grief that reflected the plays words beautifully. Instead of being seated in the amphitheatre proper, the seats were instead placed on the stage. It is indeed a pity that we weren’t seated in the tiered seats however it makes sense that it wasn’t so.
The lighting for this production is basic and the set was so minimalistic as to be non-existent. All of this conjured gritty, basic imagery of a show that was being performed in the wild somewhere and lent a dark tinge to the performance that suited the themes perfectly.
Each of the actors performed their roles brilliantly. Just by glancing through the program notes you can see that each actor has a list of credentials as long as the play and their hard work can definitely be seen in the quality of their performances.
As I mentioned, the show had good energy. It wasn’t as electric as some other performances I have seen, but it was high enough to pull the audience into their gruesome world and guide us through in a snappy but well-timed fashion.
I had read the play shortly before seeing this production and was curious to see how they would deal with Lavinia and the unfortunate things that happen to her. I was not disappointed. It is not an easy thing to pull off having ones hands and tongue cut off convincingly and without ridiculous hand stumps. There is so much that could have gone wrong with it but Zoë Tuffin and Johnacée Theron (Lavinia) did a marvellous job to create a performance that should not be sneezed at.
What I liked about the show was the way the text was interpreted. As one who loves Shakespeare but has ADD tendencies, I find it difficult to fully appreciate the works, especially since they last for hours. However, I was able to follow this production with ease, hence finding it engaging, as the actors delivered their lines in manners that made the meaning behind the text easier to grasp.
Too many times have I sat through a Shakespeare play and wondered what on earth was happening. So I was very pleased by this. What I also found a little astonishing but excellent was the fact that the audience actually laughed at times during the performance. This did not detract from the nobility of the play but lent a slightly less grim pallor to it. After all, if one can’t laugh at a bit of blood-shed, then there’s not much to laugh about in the world, is there?
Thus, to sum up. Titus Andronicus as performed by the Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble was an engaging performance. The energy was high, and brought to the audience fresh and new interpretations to the piece that sometimes had the audience in stitches. All the actors and musicians performed tremendously well and this is definitely a piece worth seeing. It runs August 19 to September 6. Tickets can be purchased at queenslandshakespeare.org.